The Ribbon - A Timid Teacher's Best Friend

Office 2007 has been out for a few months now, and I have to admit that I love it (sorry Mac users, a comparable version won't be available to you until later this year). They have done a number of changes (basically, they re-designed the software from the ground up) that vastly improve the work flow. With all of the changes implemented in this new version of Office, I think these changes translate into two scenarios:

  • Previous Office users will have a slight learning curve to overcome. For me, it has taken about three hours in the software to feel relatively comfortable.
  • New Office users will be able to learn the new version of Office much more quickly than than they could have learned previous versions of Office - this is huge because it will allow teachers to focus on teaching curriculum content, rather than teaching computers (which is the way things should be done - a math teacher is hired to teach math, not PowerPoint).
One example of a key change in the new Office is what Microsoft has termed the "ribbon" (other favorite functions include a live image preview, better contextual menus, and the new XML-based docx format). Rather than static buttons and menu bar items, the ribbon changes dynamically, depending upon the task at hand. According to Microsoft:
The Ribbon is designed to help you quickly find the commands that you need to complete a task. Commands are organized in logical groups, which are collected together under tabs. Each tab relates to a type of activity, such as writing or laying out a page. To reduce clutter, some tabs are shown only when needed. For example, the Picture Tools tab is shown only when a picture is selected.

This new "ribbon" should result in an onslaught of high-quality documents being produced by our students. According to John Whitaker, a trainer from Microsoft that I recently spoke with, there are roughly 1500 individual functions in Microsoft Word alone - he further estimates that most users only use 2% of the functionality that Word has to offer. Hopefully the ribbon will bring many of these "once hidden" features to the forefront, empowering our students in greater ways.

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